Chimpanzees and Sign Language: Darwinian Realities versus Cartesian Delusions

The Pluralist 6 (3):19-24 (2011)
Abstract
Dr. Fouts began his lecture with the story of how he and his wife Deborah became involved with Washoe—the first non-human to acquire the signs of American Sign Language (ASL). Project Washoe began in 1966 with Drs. Allen and Beatrix Gardner in Reno, Nevada. There had been other experiments that attempted to get chimpanzees to speak. These experiments were not successful due to anatomical and neurological differences between humans and chimpanzees. (Fouts showed some video of the chimpanzee Vicki trying to say the four words she had learned—mama, papa, up, cup.) Part of the issue is the construction of the chimpanzee’s vocal box while another part of the issue is that chimpanzee vocalizations are tied to their ..
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